by Margaret Atwood
Stanza 3 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
the song nobody knows
because anyone who has heard it
is dead, and the others can't remember.
- That makes sense, right? No one can "know" the song, since whoever has heard it has ended up on that island as one of those "beached skulls."
- The others that can't remember are presumably the lucky sailors who survived the song, maybe because they put some wax in their ears like Odysseus's men. So they too can't know the song because they didn't really hear it.
- So what are we to make of a song that nobody knows? The speaker seems to be beefing up the song's intrigue some more since we now know we can't find a single person out there to tell us about it. It looks like we'll just have to experience it for ourselves (or not).
- We also have some more ambiguity in words like "anyone," "nobody," and "others," which proves even more that the outcome of hearing the Siren song holds true for everyone. No one's special here in the sense of being able to hear the song and survive it.
- Notice too that we have some anaphora going on in lines 4 and 7: the speaker repeats that "the song" clause to help lend some poetic pizzazz to an otherwise informal and casual poem. So, although things sound pretty free in terms of meter and rhyme, we do have some devices that help to keep things sounding all poetic-like. (Check out "Sound Check" for more on this poem's sound.)
- We also have our first period in this poem in line 9, which tells us that we should stop for a second and let the song's intrigue linger for a moment. That period may also hint a shift in tone, theme, or voice coming up, so keep an eye out for any changes.